One Man’s Journey From Selling Fruit to Bollywood
“I like watching myself on screen.” Witness Solanki Diwakar’s journey who sells fruit and acts in Bollywood films.
Camera: Mukul Bhandari
Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan
Illustrations: Aroop Mishra
Solanki Diwakar, 38, lives in Delhi’s Sriniwaspuri with his wife and two children. They live in a room with a small bed, a cooking stove and a television set. For nearly ten years, Solanki has been selling seasonal fruit – which he gets from Okhla Mandi – in Malviya Nagar Market, to earn a living.
The Quint caught up with Solanki, who told us that while selling fruit, his mind wanders to films, the sets he has been to, the actors he has worked with, and his dream of being on the silver screen.
Solanki’s fascination with films and dream of acting and watching himself on the screen has persisted since he was a child. Without paying much attention to how it would unfold, he promised himself to one day, live his dream.
He moved to Delhi from a small town in Agra called Achhnera in 1995. Initially, he worked as domestic help. Captivated by Govinda’s ‘Hero No 1’, where he played the role of a house help, Solanki drew closer to turning his dream to reality.
“When he was 7-8 years old, he used to collect film reels from a nearby cinema hall and put them in a bundle... watch them through light of a torch. Whenever I asked him to study, he would tell me that there is no use of studying. His mind was always occupied in all this.”Solanki Diwakar’s Mother
While ironing clothes in a make-shift shop, Solanki used to exhibit his acting skills to those around until, one day, he met a theatre artist who offered him the role of Abu Salem in a play being performed at Sri Ram Centre for Performing Arts.
“In that scene, two-three people had to beat me. That’s it. No dialogues. When the play was done and I came out of the theatre, a little boy came to me and said that he really liked my part. That was the first time I received a compliment after acting on a stage. I will never forget that.”Solanki Diwakar
However, Solanki couldn’t enrol in acting classes or act in many plays since he didn’t meet the educational qualification criterion – secondary school pass.
In 2011-12, while Solanki was hunting for small roles in plays and other acting opportunities, he found his cousin, Harish Dinkar, was assisting in the making of the film ‘Titli’ and was asked by him to visit the set in Delhi.
“The call time was 8 am, I got up at 5 in the morning and reached the set at 7. I was so happy that my dream to act in a movie is going to come true and may be because of the overt happiness, my head started to ache. I had just one line in the scene where I had to say ‘15 thousand’.”Solanki Diwakar
It was after this that Solanki gave audition after audition and got the chance to act in various films. He played the role of a drunkard villager in Sanjay Mishra’s ‘Kadvi Hawa’ – his role was a minute-long and he had no lines.
“I don’t want to become Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan. I only thought of coming on screen, and I have. My desire has been fulfilled.”Solanki Diwakar
“‘Dream Girl’ has a proper scene with me. People have started to recognise me because of that scene. People say, ‘We went with our family, we saw you. We were shocked that this is the bhaiya we buy fruit from’.”Solanki Diwakar
Solanki took his family and his mother to watch ‘Dream Girl’.
“I looked at my mom, in her eyes, and then she kept her hand on my head and gave me her blessing. That was the most emotional moment of my life.”Solanki Diwakar
“I want my son to make more such films. I was so happy to see him on the big screen, I am so proud. My son has become a hero.”Solanki Diwakar’s Mother
Solanki is famous in Delhi’s Malviya Nagar Market where he has been selling fruit for the past eight-ten years. Shopkeepers in the vicinity relate stories about how Solanki bhai keeps talking about films.
Solanki told The Quint how surreal the experience of selling fruit and then shooting on a film set is – and the sense of achievement it inspires in him. However, he is aware he can’t be dependent on film gigs to look after this family. He wants to send his children, Roshni and Sudip, to a good school and even buy his own house in Delhi.
“Acting is just my passion. If I will sit hoping for acting gigs then how will I run my house? Even though my heart is not in this work, I have to do it to make ends meet.”Solanki Diwakar
Look out for Solanki in ‘The White Tiger’ on Netflix and ‘Tandav’ on Amazon Prime.
Solanki Diwakar’s story was first published in Murtaza Ali Khan’s blog here.
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